Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, injured or changed, but there’s no medical reason for this to be done.
It’s also known as female circumcision or cutting, and by other terms, such as sunna, gudniin, halalays, tahur, megrez and khitan, among others.
Over 137,000 women and girls are estimated to be living in England and Wales who have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) & 24,000 girls deemed to be at risk of FGM.
Since March 2015, 15966 cases recorded of women & girls with FGM in UK hospitals and in 2017/208 there 4,495 were newly recorded.
FGM is complex, deeply entrenched social norm and affects multiple communities in the UK and the sexual health and reproductive well-being of all women who have undergone this crime or who are at risk.
The UK Government’s Approach to FGM is that it is incorporated as part of Violence against Women & Girls strategy. This includes, Preventing violence and abuse, Provision of services, Partnership working and pursuing perpetrators.
The Serious Crimes Act 2015, made several changes to the FGM Act 2003, it Extended “extraterritoriality to protect UK nationals and ‘habitual residents’” and introduced 4 new laws:
1. Offence of failing to protect girl from risk of FGM
2. Introduced ‘life-long anonymity for identification of victims in publications’
3. Introduced new ‘female genital mutilation protection orders’
4. Introduced a ‘duty to notify the police of cases female genital mutilation on girls under 18 within one month.
The role of health professionals is to:
• Support early detection and treatmentthis should include primary care level
• Safeguarding – risk assessment and referrals to specialist services
• Provide information– to women about the law and related support services
• Ask women about their experiencesof FGM and history – be non-judgemental
• Use female interpreters – if needed
On 1st February 2019, a Ugandan mother who comes from a community that does not practice cutting became the first person to be found guilty of FGM in the UK
Since then , there has been an even more crucial need for the following actions to take place in order to provide protection support to those who may be at risk.
This includes, the following :
· Training and leadership development- accredited & tailored training to professionals; leadership training to young women & community champions; capacity development & mentoring
· Policy advocacy & public awareness: conducting participatory research, developing education materials, delivering school awareness sessions, supporting youth advocacy & annual youth forum, engaging policy makers & organising public events
· Outreach & community support: peer to peer group support, coffee mornings; mobilising, supporting community educators & community champions including supervision support
· Specialist services & provision of information & advice through sign posting & referrals, provision of specialist advice through telephones & face to face, counselling & family education sessions;
· Partnership development & collaboration through developing long term partnerships
· Developing evidence to inform & shape policies and practice that meet the needs of BME VAWG survivors, particularly African women and girls.
Tackling FGM within Communities requires:
• Providing safe spaces
• Supporting affected women
• Effective and sensitive Media engagement
• Engaging Religious leaders
• Building bridges with frontline health workers
• Engaging Community champions in the design and delivery of services
• Community outreach events and working with men